Reader Mail: World Building

A reader writes:
I recently [read] Cole's article you linked to and I was wondering if you could help me with something. I mean I've been working on a world for awhile now, and I'm uncertain about the first steps I should take about it. Basically, I keep going between deciding if I should do short stories first, or putting together a novel instead. And I believe the world can do both. Frankly, I'm sure I could list off several of the obstacles from that article to blame for my issues, but I'd like to know your experience in how you direct where a world takes you, and how you go about finding a concrete path once you have a grasp of where it is you want to go?
First, a caveat. My writing processes differs from this reader's in terms of our respective starting points. I don't start with world building. I start with a story I want to tell. Then I ask myself what a setting where such events take place would have to be like in order for the story to make sense.

That said, my reader is not alone. A lot of aspiring authors get caught up in endless world building spirals. The way out is to realize that world building and storytelling are two different processes. If you're asking whether your world is developed enough to write a story set in it, then it's time to write the story.

Regarding the "how do you find a concrete path?" question, I'm an outliner. Once I have a general idea for a story, I draw up a fairly detailed outline listing all of the major turns, pinches, plot twists, character goals, etc. That's my road map for writing the story.

You might not be an outliner. Discovery/organic writers just sit down and write whatever comes to mind. The only way to tell which type of writer you are is to experiment with both methods.

As for the short story vs. novel question, the two most important factors are:
1) Are you more interested in writing a short story or a novel?
2) Novels sell better.

Although it should be said that there are those who are working to resurrect the moribund short fiction market.

Personally, I'm more of a novelist than a short story writer. Three of my novels are currently on sale for less than $9 altogether.

One of those three is a finalist for this year's Best Science Fiction Novel Dragon Award. It's also available for free through Kindle Unlimited.

The Secret Kings - Brian Niemeier

Voting closes soon. Don't forget to request your free Dragon Award ballot!



  1. Professor Awesome has an excellent blog post on how authors get too caught up in worldbuilding:


  2. Brian and Rawle

    My modest understanding is that thenstory creates worldbuilding follows. The medieval chivilry stories and the romans are a good starting point